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Agony for relatives of missing crew of Amurskaya cargo ship as hope fades

By The Siberian Times reporter
06 November 2012

The loved-ones of the nine crew of a freighter loaded with gold ore are refusing to give up the slender hope that they will be found alive.

The Amurskaya vanished in storms on 28 October 2012, evidently overloaded with a cargo of gold ore. Picture: MorPort company

Relatives have received psychological counselling over their missing husbands and sons who disappeared in the Sea of Okhotsk.

The Amurskaya vanished in storms on 28 October, evidently overloaded with a cargo of gold ore. 

Divers are waiting for the weather to improve before investigating an object on the seabed at a depth of 24 metres which maybe the ship. However, an An-26 today also flew on Tuesday from Nikolayevsk-on-Amur to search the coastline for signs of the Amurskaya. 

Meanwhile, the owner of the vessel was arrested in connection with its disappearance close to the Shantar Islands, east of the Khabarovsk region and north of Japan's Hokkaido Island.  

'I know that he is alive, I'm waiting for him to be back', said Yulia, daughter of missing Amurskaya mechanical engineer Vladimir Pinchuk-Milyukin .

At a recent meeting of the crew's relatives, one woman asked plaintively: 'What do you think - it is over, have they gone?'

She was told by a psychologist: 'There is no information yet. Do not bury them before we know.'

m/v Amurskaya

An elderly mother of an Amurskaya sailor returns home after meeting other distraught family members of the lost crew. Picture: KP Vladivostok

There are some usual factors over the disappearance which came as the ship was loaded with some 89 tons more of gold ore than its permitted 611 ton allowance.

A source at the company owning the vessel told newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda: 'Perhaps the water broke through, and as the pump didn't work it sunk. 

'But why did they not try to escape? There were no traces not only of the boat, but of the rescue floats, too. They should have resurfaced, even if they were empty, that's the way they are designed. 

'But then... sometimes when its a strong storm they tie the floats. It is prohibited to do it, but sometimes the crews do so that the floats are not washed away by the waves. 

'Or perhaps they were thrown into the shallows and cannot get in touch. 

'There were nine people on board, all extremely experienced. Captain Vladimir Kucherov has worked four years on Amurskaya alone.'

This source, named as Yevgeny, also revealed that the boat was rusty, its pump was not working, one of two locators was broken. Otherwise it was in working order.

'It was due for capital repair works in China, starting from November 15. 

He said the company should have refused the contract to transport the gold ore. 

m/v Amurskaya

The missing seamen are residents of the Primorsky Territory; the ship disappeared in the vicinity of Shantar Island in the Sea of Okhotsk. Picture: Mikhail Voytenko, editor of Maritime Bulletin 

But they 'simply could not reject the offer' because they were offered immediate payment by a St Petersburg company. 

Investigators on Monday detained Alexander Shiltsin, the owner of Nikolayevsky-on-Amur seaport, owner of the Amurskaya, 'on suspicion of committing a crime'.

Shiltsin is suspected of causing deaths by breaching safety rules, an offence which could lead to seven years in jail.

Prosecutors have said that the Amurskaya had technical problems, did not take the stormy conditions into account, and left port without permission.

Poor weather including two metre high waves and strong winds have prevented divers from examining the underwater object.

'The echo depth sounder has spotted the underwater object at the depth of 24 metres, the object has a height of 9-10 metres and was confirmed by the fuel discharge,' said the press service of the Russian Transport Ministry.  'A slight oil film is seen on the surface.'

An area of 8,000 square metres of the Sea of Okhotsk has been searched in a bid to find the freighter, built in 1973.

Comments (1)

the picture with an old lady breaks my heart. so much want them to be found, against all odds ... please...
Svetlana , Russia
06/11/2012 23:03
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